Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)

See also Site Map





Toronto Governance

posted December 2008

The City of Toronto employs over 50,000 people, and has attracted increasing legslative powers over the past few years. In addition the practical amalgamation of the various cities previously comprising Metropolitan Toronto is still ongoing.

CELOS is interested in learning about the organizational, management, and cultural factors within the City that influence the administration of public space within Toronto, particularly public parks, mainly through the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department (PFR).

For example PFR has recently undergone a re-organization. Documentation for some of this can be found in the Research section of the Dufferin Park website (see the "City: Management" section of the "Management & Transparency" table). The Dufferin Park website material will eventually be moved here.

--- Reference Material ---

Elinor Ostrom
Governance Research

Ostrom workbook -- starting December 2011

posted August 01, 2010

In 2009, Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on the governance of "common pool resources" -- water, grazing lands, trees, fish, cyberspace. Her book Governing the Commons has prompted us to try applying her list of principles to eight specific park issues in Toronto. This application is being documented in an Ostrom Workbook, now in preparation. The question to be addressed in our workbook is: if park users (including on-site staff) collaborate day-to-day with municipal management in shaping local parks, can park governance in Toronto improve?


Governance Notebooks

Research Library

See also Research Mandate, Overview, and Publishing Guidelines


Practical Research

CELOS practical research: what works well in a park?

traditional playgrounds


Background Research

CELOS background research: what gets in the way?

safety data

Parks Forestry and Recreation (PFR) and Reviews


City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation management


City Programs

The city organizes itself around ongoing programs (within programs within programs...). Here we collect some notes about some specific programs that provide insight into how the city bureaucracy operates.

2010 Parks Forestry and Recreation User Fees


Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation community grants programs


Physical Assets

One way to look at city services is through the lens of physical infrastructure: it is the job of the city to provide and maintain good physical assets useful for Torontonians as we go about our lives.

We focus on parks infrastructure, since parks are a common meeting ground.

Of the collection of material here, the most extensive is for playgrounds. Playgrounds have undergone many transformations in the last several years, and we try to make sense of the reasons and effectiveness of these.


Capital Projects:

See also:

Practical Research

see also Website Usage


Disseminating information about public space

For our current set of publishing activities, see

CELOS Publishing is at an early stage. Among the current methods for dissemination of information are newsletters, websites, and publications.

Friends of Dufferin Grove Park began a monthly newsletter in September 2000, which has been published by CELOS since 2003. CELOS also distributes a weekly web newsletter about the Dufferin Park Farmers' market, and an occasional e-newsletter about Toronto city rinks.

Websites directly operated by CELOS include dufferinpark.ca, cityrinks.ca, and CELOS.ca. These collectively already have thousands of visitors per month. In addition CELOS has a free webhosting service (parkcommons.ca) as an "incubator" to help qualified community groups get started with a platform to further disseminate information about what they do in public space. These include the Toronto Community Garden Network website (tcgn.ca and more than a dozen others.

Publishing include booklets on the pleasures and safety considerations of outdoor cooking fires, and the use, management, and enjoyment of outdoor city rinks.


2012 Parks, Forestry and Recreation budgets (operating and capital)

User Fee Policy

Proposed user fees policy: excerpts

User Fee Policy, September 9, 2011.

In interpreting the distinction between fees and taxes, the courts require that a fee charged for a service or activity must bear a relationship to the cost of providing the service or activity for which the fee is charged. Subsection 259(2) of CoTA provides that the costs included in a user fee may include costs incurred for administration, enforcement and the establishment, acquisition and replacement of capital assets.

Division Heads need to determine whether the benefits each service provides accrue directly to specific individuals or groups of individuals (a private service), and should therefore be paid for by users of the service; or whether the service benefits the entire society (a public service) and should be funded from the property tax revenues. Read More >>

Read more on Finance


Toronto has more than 50,000 Full Time Equivalent staff positions (and a lot more people, since some are part-time). This army of people provide a varied set of services. Here we try to get some context and perspective on these staff, what they do, and what they cost.


Partnerships 2009

Community Consultation

Here is a recent picture showabout the unmaking' of Dufferin Grove Park.'

What is at issue in the bureaucracy of cities

"Of course it is important to the political and social sciences that the essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of people, and thus to dehumanize them. And one can debate long and profitably on the rule of Nobody, which is what the political form known as bureau-cracy truly is."
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Postscript.

The 2010 report by Dave Harvy and (Toronto Park People), funded by the Metcalf Foundation Fertile Ground for New Thinking Dave's concludes that it's time for Torontonians involved with parks to join their voices in bringing about park improvements.

You can find out about the Recreation Service Plan by going to this city webpage. You can find out how the consultations were set up by looking at this staff report.

Here is the City's list of "stakeholders" who were contacted to give their opinions about the Recreation Service Plan in May and June, 2011 (and the Parks Plan in September 2011). Here's the city's stakeholder list with contact links. If your "park friends" or advisory group is not on the list of groups who will be asked for their views, you can e-mail 311@toronto.ca and ask them to help you get on it.

Notes on the public consultation sessions:

consultation reports.

Read more on Community Engagement

Read more on Governance

Click to enlarge city government ad

The 2010 municipal election:

What did the candidates say about parks and public spaces?''', read more >>

City of Toronto Strike, 2009.

On June 22 2009 shortly after midnight, the approximately 24,000 members of Cupe Local 416 and Local 79 went on strike, read more >>

Governance References

Toronto Mayor's Office

Mayor's Office: Main portal | Contact

Agenda for Prosperity 2008
...and related documents
Bellamy Report
Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry, Toronto External Contracts Inquiry
Fiscal Review Panel 2008
Press coverage

posted March 10, 2009

Governance References

Understanding City Governance

Here's an overview of the general structure of the City of Toronto as a Municipality: The Place of the Public Commons in Urban Society on publiccommons.ca. The overview organizes the Toronto Budget into 6 main areas as shown below. See the blog entry for details.


create an orange marker for broken links until they get fixed

Governance References

City Of Toronto Contacts

Detailed contacts:
City Council | Offices | Services | e-Transactions | Information | City Management | Regulations

posted January 30, 2005. Updated March 18, 2009

City Website Portals: Living in Toronto, Doing Business, Visiting Toronto, Accessing City Hall

City Website Search Engine:Search | Search Help.

City of Toronto corporate phone directory

Read more city contacts >>

Governance References

Toronto Standing Committees

On toronto.ca see City Council and Committee Weekly Meeting Schedules.

Links to Source Documents presented to various City of Toronto Standing Committees

Parks and environment

Public Works

Community Program for Stormwater Management Grant Approvals

Community Development and Recreation Committee

Budget Committee


Aquatics: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2008/pdf/op08_bn_aslc_2.pdf To achieve the 2008 Operating Budget target, it is recommended that 2 outdoor pools be closed, for savings of $123,100 and a reduction of 2.6 approved positions in 2008.

User fees: Feb.11 2008 http://www.toronto.ca/budget2008/pdf/op08_bn_recfee.pdf

Staff increases http://www.toronto.ca/budget2008/pdf/op08_bn_staff_positions.pdf

An increase of 64.1 new positions, consisting of 20 permanent and 44.1 temporary is required almost entirely to operate new parkland and facilities coming into service. Included are new Waterfront Parks and others secured through funding arising from development agreements. Also, 7 of these new permanent positions represent improved service levels in Forestry.

Audit Committee

General Links:

  • Fertile Ground for New Thinking Improving Toronto's Parks is a report by David Harvey, a former senior advisor to the Premier of Ontario, supported by the Metcalf Foundation.
  • Toronto's Vital Signs are annual reports compiled by the Toronto Community Foundation on the health of the city.

See the Governance References section, or send your suggestions to mail@cityrinks.ca.

Governance Links

The Governance Envelope contains the following folders:

Research Links

Notebook Links

Reference Links

See Also

See also the Legal and Regulatory Envelope, including:

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Content last modified on April 02, 2012, at 10:59 AM EST